California Chaparral Institute

is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, research, and educational organization dedicated to the preservation of native shrubland habitats throughout the world and supporting the creative spirit as inspired by the natural environment. Every dime we obtain through donations help us defray costs for publications, transportation, research and education. Without financial attachments to any formal institutions or economic interests we can afford to be the voice of the chaparral without concern over future funding.


The above description is really an understatement as far as the Public Education is truthfully the meat and potatoes of what this organization does and has accomplished from it's beginning. The chaparral plant community has gotten a bad rap as the reason and cause for the horrendous catastrophic News Headlined Southern California Fires of late. Nothing could be further from the truth. No one wants to accept the human error factor when it comes to the cause of fires, irresponsible policies on vegetation manangement (or in most cases mismanagement) or the approval processes which have allowed developed of areas which should have never been developed in the first place. Then there is the present global climate changes creating far worse drought conditions world wide and far more powerful wind driven situations such as the well known Santa Anas when the season comes in have also now got to be considered along with the increases in population densities which only add to the increased probabilities of such common disaster reocurrences year after year which apparently are now here to stay. 

One of the Educational points of consideration that the California Chaparral Institute has informed the public on is the old archaic outdates fire management policies which in many cases are in a sort of time warp back into the 1950s thru 60s and the question is why ? Richard Halsey, Director of CCI has stated in a recent article he's written called:

There is no doubt that Richard Halsey does battle with politicians, but it's not so much the politicians themselves as it is the archaic outdated ideas that are still presented and enforced when it comes to rural country chaparral management policies. He often says they ignore the science. However as we all know science is like any other entity that influences the lives of human beings on our planet. Like religion, politics or big business, science is anything but a wonder neutral animal. It is power and wealth driven and the ruination of our planet's various ecosystems is proof of this. It's a matter of just what kind of science is in control. Science is just as politically, ideologically and philosophically driven as any of the other previous three human concerns mentioned. What Richard Halsey does do is expose the blatant stupidity and willful ignorance of those in charge of policy making and those that supposedly advise them. Take Richard Halsey's exposure of willful blatant ignorance in the article referenced above as a prime example:

  - Supervisor Bill Horn, January 7, 2003, San Diego County Board of Supervisors meeting.
“We have allowed things to grow that turn into green. As you know, or may not know, 200 years ago our back hills were covered in redwood trees. Well, lumber companies came in and cut them all down. And they replaced those with pine trees.”

Richard Halsey: 
"Historically, redwood groves have never existed in San Diego County. The most southerly grove is in Big Sur, 400 miles to the north."

If nothing else, the information coming from the Chaparral Institute's periodic journal called "The Chaparralian" can be entertaining as well as informative. When I first read the above quote, my first thought was, what scientist or historian told this Supervisor Bill Horn to promote such an outright blatant falsehood and why did he not check his sources first before making such an embarrassing statement at a serious public debate ? Halsey is correct. Redwoods weren't ever a part of  Southern California ecology 2000 years ago let along 200 years ago. Seriously, the redwood doesn't even break down that well even in nature and the evidence would still be available for us to verify today. What early Lumber Mills historically did in Southern California starting in the late 1800s thru the early 20th century is cut down without regard to any reforestation policy was nothing more than Ponderosa and Jeffrey Pines.


Richard Halsey, Director - California Chaparral Institute

Huell Howser of California's Gold

Welcome Fellow Natural History Enthusiasts, Teachers, Research Scientists,
and Wildland Firefighters

Basically the above folks are the Chaparral Institutes main audience. While it is hoped that teachers, research scientists and firefighters put aside pride and long held ideologically driven ideas and outdated techniques long enough to actually benefit themselves and those they are supposed to serve and advise, it would be most beneficial to reach the minds and hearts of those Natural History Enthusiasts (the regular folks) who could actually make an even bigger difference in saving what is left of the Chaparral Community by their own personal efforts in getting themselves educated and enjoying the nature walks in the Preserves they are so fond of visiting.  This is where the California Chaparral Institute comes to the aid.

 As mentioned above, the Institute is a not for profit organization and any support they receive goes directly into the educational system they offer the public by way of written reports, the periodic journal called the Chaparralian, sponsoring outdoor educational activities and any watchdog reporting, business and/or legal activities necessary to correct misconceptions about the chaparral plant community. Joining the organization is not only a free educational experience, but will also be of personal interest and benefit in making your own practical applications within your urban landscape and organic gardening projects. You'll understand the science of just how chaparral plant communities function and operate, but you'll also realize that most all other plant ecosystems do have identical common ground needs and requirements, though these may vary slightly within each unique ecosystem around the globe.

Become a Chaparralian: Joining and Donating to CCI 


Here are some important Educational Links on the CCI website:


Here are some pictures and fun facts about the reality of wildfires today.

Richard Halsey:  
"A home ignited by blowing embers during the 2007 Witch Creek Fire. Note the burned sticks in the foreground where the wildland fire stopped, the green iceplant, then the dense, unburned patch of chamise chaparral right next to the house." 

 He's absolutely correct here. This scene was actually very common with not only this fire, but others as well. In the old days people were encouraged to build homes without Cedar Shake roofs. Good idea, but no guarantee as clay tiled and concrete tiled homes like the one above actually blew up and exploded under intense heat in those catastrophic fires which were wind driven and not chaparral plant community driven. Take notice of any future neighbourhood firestorms (and they are going to happen) which will oddly enough  often leave plants and other landscaping intact while destroying homes.


 This morning the Sand Diego Union Tribune healdined an article titled:
Homeowners warned: "Challenging" fire season ahead

 There were a list of fire prevention points I disagree with. Here's the list:
Fire officials offer these steps for homeowners to prepare for fire season:1•Clear brush 100 feet from home.2•Clean leaves off roof.3•Remove dead or dying trees.4•Plant fire-resistant landscaping.5•Trim trees that overhang roof and driveway.6•Stack firewood 50 feet from house.7•Install double-paned windows.8•Cover chimney with spark-arrester.9•Enclose eaves along roof.

 Okay, I get and agree with 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, and 9. Responsible clearing should be done.


Point # 5 for me has always been odd, especially when I was given a warning from the local Anza Fire Inspectors. Take a look at a photo of my old place in Anza and notice the rather large Coulter Pine next to the wooden deck & covered porch. I had two of the pine branches which were actually touching the roof of the deck and I was cited a warning for not removing them. Seriously, does anyone actually believe that if those branches weren't touching my deck's roof and the tree caught fire my house would be saved ? Fire is a dangerous reality of the backcountry rural areas and you just have to accept and respect those dangers. Needless to say I complied, but not for that reason. Preventing Argentine Ants from using it as a ladder into my house was always of prime concern.

Okay now point # 3. I don't think it's all together necessary to remove a dead tree on the property. I rather like tree trunks left in place for wildlife habitat. Woodpeckers make nesting holes for themselves and other birds who utilize them later. Any vegetation on your property will burn, green or otherwise. If three is a dead tree is next to your house, then I get that, but for other more important reasons like a blow over damage cause by wind or termite facilitating to your home.

Now point # 4. There is no such thing under the extreme conditions we now face with regards weather that certain landscaping resists fire. Nothing resists fire though certain items like iceplant maybe, but iceplant can have massive amounts of dead material underneath the living canopy above which does and will catch fire. Plant with beautiful ornamental natives to your area and enjoy your yard. Fire is a condition you should accept for living in such an area and all green lving things will burn. Don't blame fire on Chaparral, blame it on the humans who caused them.

As time permits I will add to this page. Keep tuned in.

Please JOIN the California Chaparral Institute for the education that will enrich your life.


  1. Thank you so much for your post concerning our work to promote a better appreciation and understanding for the chaparral. It is an honor to count you as one of our friends.
    - Rick


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